One of the biggest challenges for both our clients and staff is finding the time and motivation to get adequate exercise. Greg Parnell, the Director of Education and Assistant Program Director at Crestwood Behavioral Health Center Eureka’s campus, has been a licensed Zumba instructor for five years now, and to say he is passionate about Zumba, would be an enormous understatement. He teaches Zumba classes not only for the clients in the Eureka facility, but also in the community at recreation centers and schools.
Zumba was started in the 1990s blending aerobic exercise with infectious Latin dance music. It is now a worldwide phenomenon being done in 180 countries, with more than 15 million students taking classes. What Greg and many others that participate in Zumba have found is that it is an activity that sparks something deep inside your spirit. That spark energizes you, changes your mood, and changes your outlook on life. Not only does Zumba bring about physical changes in you, it brings about mental and spiritual changes as well. Zumba can be a spark that starts with a simple routine of fun exercise, which then progresses into wanting to eat better, feel better, present one’s self better, and be more active in the world.
Crestwood has added Zumba to our Mind, Body, and Spirit Initiative. To get Zumba started in our facilities, Greg, along with Margaret McDonald, Administrator at Crestwood Center at Napa Valley and Crestwood’s Director of Nutritional and Wellness Services, wrote a proposal for a Crestwood Zumba Program that has several components and was geared toward both clients and staff. Their first goal was to get one or two staff members at each facility to be trained as Zumba instructors. These staff members can then teach 3 to 5 classes a week for clients and staff at their facilities. The second component was the purchase of Zumba DVDs that could be used to do additional Zumba classes or while trained staff is away. And the third part was to reach out to local Zumba instructors and develop a mutually beneficial relationship with them, in which they would volunteer their time to do Zumba at our facilities, in exchange for directing staff toward their classes in the community. Greg, as Crestwood’s in-house Zumba resource, will also travel to the facilities quarterly to reinvigorate the programs and troubleshoot any problems.
At the 2015 annual Zumba Convention that was held in Orlando, Florida, Greg shared Crestwood’s proposal for a Zumba program with Alberto Pearlman, the CEO of Zumba, who then shared it with conference Keynote speaker, actress and singer Ashley Judd, who lives her own recovery story of depression and wellness through Zumba. Ms. Judd and Mr. Pearlman were so fascinated by what Crestwood is doing with Zumba that they both decided they wanted to be involved. Mr. Pearlman graciously offered to train Crestwood staff to become licensed Zumba instructors. In November 2015, 11 Crestwood facilities, (Angwin, American River, Sacramento, Pleasant Hill, San Jose, Fresno, Bakersfield, Vallejo, Solano, San Diego, and Chula Vista) sent nineteen staff members to Cheryl Louie’s Studio Z in Newark, California, where they were trained by Joy Smith, a Zumba Education Specialist, to become licensed Zumba instructors.
Since then, Greg and Margaret have been traveling to our facilities helping our licensed Zumba instructors plan their classes, help with choreography, and incorporate classes into program schedules. “The enthusiasm from staff and clients has been overwhelming, and the support from Administrators has been amazing. It is inspiring to see how many of our clients really get into the classes, the music, the movement, and just losing themselves into the rhythms,” said Greg. “There are also stories of amazing transformations of our very quiet and soft-spoken clients who suddenly come alive when the Zumba class starts. They see and feel the energy around them and then want to join in.” And then there are also staff members, who after just one of Greg’s Zumba visits, are then inspired to want to do more, learn more, and become Zumba instructors themselves.
Greg and Margaret hope to measure the success of the program and the influence of Zumba on our clients and staff in several ways. They have developed a pre-survey to be used before Zumba is offered in the facility and a post-survey after Zumba has been added to the program schedule. These surveys will assess the number of days clients exercise, reported enjoyment of exercise, and reported barriers to exercise, such as feeling self-conscious or not enjoying exercise.
When the Zumba program is fully up and running in our Mental Health Rehabilitation Centers, Psychiatric Health Facilities, Adult Residential Facilities, and Social Rehabilitation facilities, they intend to bring Zumba Gold to our Skilled Nursing Facilities. Zumba Gold is a specialized form of Zumba for older adults. “We believe all of our clients and staff, no matter what age or ability level, will benefit physically, emotionally, and spiritually from participating in such an accessible and inspiring form of exercise,” said Margaret. “We also would love to eventually have clients be trained to become Zumba instructors, giving them meaningful roles in the facilities and the potential for employment once they are back in their communities.”
Zumba truly provides that amazing spark to energize the mind, body and spirit of those who experience and embrace it in their lives.
Margaret M. McDonald, M.S.
Director of Nutrition and Wellness Services
Robert Pitts, Campus Administrator
Crestwood Behavioral Health Center Eureka